Smooth operating

This week I attended an online symposium. As the organizer knew that most of the attending organizations do not like, or have even blocked Zoom, he used regular Teams meetings.
It is always a good event, with interesting speakers and cases, and this year’s edition was no exception. What struck me however was the smoothness of the experience. All presenters had organized their own session (so I entered in all kinds of meeting recipes, from one session where all 80 of us were presenters, to a session where I was a muted attendee) and I just hopped smoothly from one session to the other and apart from the occasional lobby, there was no barrier at all.
All session links were in the chat of the main meeting, and that chat was listed in my Team chats, so I could always easily check what the next session was or chat to the organizer.

Why did this work so well?

  • I have at least two Teams meetings a day at the moment, so I know the tool inside and out.
  • Using my Microsoft365 subscription meant I could do whatever I do at work – the experience was completely the same. In the Participants I could see two descriptors – “Outside your organization” (which means logged-in M365 users) and “Guest” (which means not logged in to M365).

What is a Guest?

A Guest in a Teams meeting is someone without a Microsoft365 account, or who has entered the meeting without logging in. They can attend via the web, mobile or use the app, but they always have limited options.

Meeting organized by my private account, invited myself and Test15 from my work, and two others without an account.

What are the limitations of the Guest role?

1. No notification of people waiting in the lobby

Guests do not get a notification that someone is waiting in the lobby, and they can not allow someone into the meeting, even if they are a presenter. External presenters with a M365 account can do that, even when they are attending the meeting on their phone.

2. Chat only available during the meeting

Guests have the Teams meeting screen, but not the Teams rails (if you are attending via the web app) or other Team windows (if you use the desktop app). Therefore they can only use the chat when they are in the meeting.
External participants with M365 see the meeting Chat in their Teams rails on the left and can keep on chatting.

3. No background effects in the app

Guests have the option in their menu to adjust background, but it shows just an empty frame.
External participants with M365 can adjust their backgrounds as usual.

Mystery Guest (Guest) is a presenter (as the Sharing block is not greyed out and she can ask control over the shared presentation) and she uses the app (as there is an option to change background effect) but the panel shows no pictures or other options.

4. No Focus or Large Gallery/Together Mode

You can see from above screenshot that there are also no options for Focus or the Large Gallery or Together Mode. And yes, the Modern Experience has been applied in the app.
External participants with M365 can use those options, as shown in this screenshot where Test15 is using the same app.

Test15 (with M365) uses the same desktop app as above and has all the modern options. An external presenter with M365 can even create a Poll!

5. No option to manage attendees

Guests can only pin people, but not spotlight or mute them, or change their roles.
External presenters with M365 can do that.

This is Mystery Guest’s screen, and she is a presenter but can only Pin Test15.

6. Limited participant’s info

Guests only see the names of the participants, and who is the organizer.
Presenters with a M365 account can see organizational contact information.

A Guest sees only this when they hover over any participant’s picture or initials
An external with M365 sees this when he hovers over the picture/initials of the organizer
And this is what you see when you hover over picture or initials of a colleague – even more info! (This is my work account – this was an external participant for this experiment)

Roles list updated!

Some time ago I wrote about the differences in roles, and I have updated the list of who can do what from that post. I added extra columns for the Presenter (Guest) and Attendee (Guest) as these have different options from the M365-attendee. Feel free to download and/or use for your own organization!

This is only the top of the list, but you already see some differences

Conclusions:

Do you have a Microsoft365 subscription and you are invited to a Teams meeting? Make sure you log in before joining the meeting!

An external participant who, like you, has a Microsoft365 subscription can do as much as a participant from your own organization, except recording and viewing a recording. This allows for a smooth meeting experience.
A Guest can only do the basics.

When you are organizing or presiding Teams meetings with externals regularly, you will have to take the following variables into account to have an idea about each participant’s meeting experience.

  • Role: Organizer, Presenter or Attendee
  • Means of attending: Desktop app, web or phone
  • M365 account: Yes or Guest?

Be a Smooth Operator šŸ˜

Are you a regular presenter in Teams meetings outside your organization? (E.g. a therapist or a trainer) You may want to consider taking a subscription to Microsoft365 as it will allow you to do SO much more. I have a Business Basic subscription which is only $5.00 per month (ex tax) and you get a lot of other goodies, too!

Title inspired by “Smooth Operator” by Sade.

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